The Sight Reading Secret: How To Teach Piano Students to Sight Read FAST!

For many piano students, sight reading is their Achilles heel.  I’ve sat through many festival classes where talented piano students would play their pieces like nobody’s business… and then fumble miserably through their sight reading.

And while sight reading is certainly a skill that takes time and practice, teaching your piano students to efficiently sight read is easily accomplished… using the word FAST.

F is for Fingering

Finger number markings are like little lighthouses on your piano students’ page shouting out “Notice me! Danger!”  Teach your piano student to quickly notice finger number markings and be able to identify why they are there (change in hand position, addition of an accidental, large leap or stretch etc.)

A is for Accidentals

Not only do students need to be able to quickly identify the key signature, but they also need to do a scan for accidentals.   But just seeing the sharp or flat on their page is not enough. Have them find the corresponding key on the piano with their eyes.  Finding it visually on the keys results in a greater rate of accuracy when playing through.

S is for Sequences (and patterns)

Teach your piano students to quickly notice “What is the same?” and find patterns in both the treble and the bass clef to quickly “get rid of” material they don’t need to pay too much attention to.  Once they’ve decoded the root of the repeating part they simply need to mentally take note of where else the same pattern or sequence happens.

T is for “Tricky Bits”

Finally, your student should take stock of what looks “tricky”.  Are there large leaps?  Rhythmically difficult sections?  Ledger lines?  Teach your piano students to sight read effectively by being able to zero-in on what may trip them up.  Don’t let them wait until they bump into this section while playing to realize it required extra attention.

And There You Have It!

So many piano students sight read by starting at the very first note, figuring out that note, moving on to the next, and so on.  In reality, sight reading efficiently is being able to look at the piece in its entirety and make effective decisions based on the piece as a whole.

I write FAST directly onto my students’ sight reading homework to remind them of this procedure.  Try it yourself,  your piano students’ sight reading skills will quickly improve.

Once your piano students are comfortable with the FAST approach to sight-reading, break out these 4 activities to add more meaning to the entire process.

11 Responses to The Sight Reading Secret: How To Teach Piano Students to Sight Read FAST!

    • says

      Hi Shanna – I’ve always struggled with finding a sight reading series that is actually appealing to kids. They all seem so dry and non-relevant. I do like the new Sight Reading books that the Piano Adventures series has just released – they are leveled (as they release them) and they are fun and teach really good sight reading strategies. I’d suggest having a look at them. For my older kids I have them sight read “real” music – I keep supplementary material about 2 levels below their current level for them to practice sight reading.

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